Lacking the emotional impact of the premiere, Deadwater Fell Episode 2 more than made up for it by added some tantalizing new layers to the mystery.
This recap of Deadwater Fell Season 1, Episode 2 contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Let’s open this recap of Deadwater Fell Episode 2 with a story-so-far summary since this is a week late and I must admit that despite the impactful opener to Channel 4’s twisty new drama I’d totally forgotten most of it and I don’t want other people to feel the same way. Thus, a reminder of our dark tale of close-knit small-town Scotland and the devastating fire that took the lives of Kate (Anna Madeley) and her three daughters, and left only her deeply suspicious husband, Tom (David Tennant), alive.
A tragic accident? Not likely. Needle marks in the girls’ arms and pine needles on their feet suggested a more sinister cause, and late secrets revealed about the two couples at the story’s heart might have suggested a motive.
While that opener was largely concerned with establishing the local dynamics and the immediate aftermath of the fire, Deadwater Fell Episode 2 honed in on Jess (Cush Jumbo), Kate’s bestie and the wife of Steve (Matthew McNulty), a local copper who seemed to get the shortest possible end of the stick in this hour. Of particular note is Jess’s extramarital fling with Tom, told in frequent, increasingly sinister flashbacks, and its present-day repercussions; not just burdened with the guilt of cheating on her husband, but also with the troubling implication that Tom’s controlling style of lovemaking might make him a decent fit for a nutcase arsonist.
Jess’s amateur sleuthing began at the funeral and continued throughout Deadwater Fell Episode 2. Kate, her depression and suspicious shopping habits having positioned her as a suspect in the premiere, began to seem more and more like a victim of Tom, whose rough philandering liaisons apparently included not only her but “an old friend”, Sacha (Seline Hizli), whose experiences with him were similar.
Tom’s sexual proclivities don’t necessarily make him a murderer, but Tennant’s performance might. At a point later on, when he and Jess find themselves under the same roof, Tom morphs from the smiley small-town GP to a potential serial killer in the blink of an eye, and there isn’t a single moment I could point to when the transition occurred. That’s masterfully subtle acting, with a share of the lifting done by the direction and Jess’s increasingly frantic reaction also; nothing actually came of the encounter, but it felt for a while that it might, which is more or less the same thing in dramatic terms.
The highlight of Deadwater Fell Episode 2 was, I think, Jess confessing to Steve about the affair, and then recounting it to the police. This is a woman strongly believing that justice is more important than her own marriage, her own happiness, and potentially her own safety – it’s easy to see Jess as the sacrificing hero here, her infidelity notwithstanding, and that always makes me nervous in whodunits. The easiness of Tom’s shift to a menacing figure, and the efforts the show seems to be going to in order to paint Jess as a victim, suggests there’s much more to come here.
As if to confirm this, testimony from a local off-the-rails kid, Dylan (Lewis Gribben), suggested that one of the parents was chasing one of their children through the woods on the night of the fire, and flashbacks seemed to indicate it was Kate, rather than Tom, who was in pursuit. We’ll have to see where this goes, but at the halfway point, almost nothing is entirely clear.